A movie critic on NPR said it would have been nice to have had a truly conflicted protagonist without the black thing from space to make him evil. Although it’s true that Venom did have a serious impact on Peter Parker’s psyche, he was already headed down a dark path from the very beginning of the movie. Where Spiderman had previously been hated by civil officials, defamed by the official media and either feared or admired by the rank-and-file citizenry, the beginning of this movie shows him as a renowned hero. Scheduled to receive official honors and the key to the city, he can’t seem to see past himself to realize that his beloved Mary Jane is suffering. Her career, which had just begun to show promise, has crashed and burned, but he’s too caught up in the thrill of fame and public accolades to hear her. The crushing blow comes at the city ceremony where he swoops in and receives an upside-down kiss, that “special” kiss that previously only Spiderman and Mary Jane had shared.
It’s the old lesson that whenever everyone loves you, you are in the greatest danger. Christians should be able to appreciate something of their movement’s history in this story, though. In the first century of the church, Christians were hated by civil leaders, mocked by philosophers and either loved or rejected by the general population. Yet, when Constantine became emperor, Christianity came into vogue and the bishops donned imperial garb. Pride puffed up the body of Christ, inflated by the seemingly worldwide acceptance of this as the true faith. What seemed an enormous victory was, if not a defeat, a terrible decline. So it is today, if the church becomes the established faith of a nation. I mean this not as an attack on the Church of England or any other such national church, but as an indictment of American evangelicalism’s aspirations to empire.
Spiderman’s personal failings were exacerbated by the advent of Venom. Taken over in his sleep by a dark and malevolent goo, Peter Parker becomes even more self-absorbed, overbearing and foolish. Clinging to his flesh and stirring up every evil passion in his heart, Peter’s own inclinations are pushed to an extreme.
So we find two men in one church. One is the reporter whose career Parker ruined in exposing his photo fraud in a cover story for the newspaper. Eddie Brock kneels in the chapel in prayer, asking God to kill Peter Parker. Up in the bell tower of the same church, Spiderman wrestles to remove his suit of darkness. One is in the house of worship seeking vengeance, while the other is on the margins struggling for redemption.
Am I making too much of that?
“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:7-9 ESV).
Normally mild-mannered Peter Parker forgets who he his, lowers his standards and fails as a person. His humanity, made in the image of God, is marred by bitterness, anger and ego. It’s interesting how, in an age that has spoken so much about moral relativism, we find a superhero that implicitly believes in an unspoken moral code, one that he sees enacted at every turn. Absolutes are implied and unintended consequences abound when they are not respected.
Release is not finally found in murder and mayhem inflicted on one’s enemies. Holding on to a grudge only creates a cancer in the innermost being that eats away at your soul. I know, I’ve been there. When I read the passage from Matthew quoted above, I no longer read it legalistically, worrying about whether I’ve forgiven enough to be forgiven (that never worked anyway). I read this passage and others with a view towards the underlying principle that, if I don’t forgive, my heart is in not condition to receive mercy. It’s a heart problem that needs to be treated.
Forgiveness heals the forgiver and offers restoration to the forgiven. New life can only come when the old hurts and offenses are cut off and cast away. The new day of life and hope can only shine on those who, from the heart, learn the lesson of the Spider’s pardon. The church, the body of Christ on earth, is called to be the community of reconciliation in this world. If that is the case, how will we ever fulfill God’s mission of cleansing the river of humanity if our own little rivulet is itself polluted?
There are many who probably don’t deserve my forgiveness, but then there are probably others as well (some of their faces I can see with my mind’s eye) who would also withhold mercy from me for past sins. Lord help me if I contaminate the fellowship of the sanctified with my unmerciful spirit.
See what the other synchrobloggers have to say on Christianity and film:
- Adam Gonnerman pokes at The Spider’s Pardon
- David Fisher thinks that Jesus Loves Sci-Fi
- John Morehead considers Christians and Horror Redux: From Knee-Jerk Revulsion to Critical Engagement
- Marieke Schwartz lights it up with Counter-hegemony: Jesus loves Borat
- Mike Bursell muses about Christianity at the Movies
- Jenelle D’Alessandro tells us Why Bjork Will Never Act Again
- Cobus van Wyngaard contemplates Theology and Film (as art)
- Tim Abbott tells us to Bring your own meaning…?
- Sonja Andrews visits The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly:Christ in Spaghetti Westerns
- Steve Hollinghurst takes a stab at The Gospel according to Buffy
- Les Chatwin insists We Don’t Need Another Hero
- Lance Cummings says The Wooden Wheel keeps Turning
- John Smulo weaves a tale about Spiderman 3 and the Shadow
- Josh Rivera spells well with Christian Witchcraft
- Phil Wyman throws out the Frisbee: Time to Toss it Back
- Sally Coleman rushes up with Making Connections- films as a part of a mythological tradition
- Steve Hayes ponders The Image of Christianity in Films
- Kim Paffenroth pondersNihilism lite